Creston Davis | Pedagogy of Hope
It has been noted that in the age of global capitalism virtually everything is for sale. Nothing lies outside of the reach of the market. Today, education is increasingly instrumental, a means to an end known as the so-called “good life.” Squeezed between the demands of capital and budgetary shortfalls, the global priests of education in turn demand ever greater sacrifices from students such that universities that were once sites for the production of knowledge aimed toward the common good, have now become territories of capitalist reproduction which has led to the creation of an entire generation of indoctrinated, indentured, and thus largely depoliticized subjects.
We live in an age where the Sophists are the chief philosophers, where the Socratic injunction to “know thyself” is transposed such that the means by which we now make ourselves known is a twin inscription upon a capitalist surface. It is at once prescription and postscript whereby desire congeals in collective ritual consumption, as well as one’s marking of various promissory notes which signal an individual’s desire for absorption within the capitalist matrix. We have misplaced our hope into an asymmetrical covenant with an abstraction that cannot make good on its promises. Thus for those coming under the weight of massive student-debt, these promises and hopes have begun to ring hollow. The promise of the good life, it seems, does not come without a significant price tag. The true cost becomes more apparent with each decade that passes, for many persisting into old age until finally receiving redemption in the form of a new tag; one that hangs solemnly from the naked toe.
The revolution Marx envisioned will likely never come. Indeed, where today are the proletariat? The vanguards? Are they the ones we see smashing windows, punching nazis, or wearing pussy-hats? Perhaps revolution has always hidden itself in the modest form of a seed. Today, strategies aimed toward authentic change must extend beyond the tiresome and endless barrage of criticism which often functions to merely reconstitute the world-as-it-is. Education must now begin with the question of one’s own willing participation in false consciousness. This is at once a political and a spiritual discipline. It is from here that we might begin the task of imagining a new collective paradigm. But, this should not be misconstrued as a form of enlightenment, but rather as a form of endarkening, a case of strange and sudden blindness where together we may yet learn to see in the dark, to feel our way forward.
A Catacombic ethos resists the commodification of our very souls. When we withdraw from the effort of self-making, from engaging in a hermeneutics of the self ala Foucault, the sign of the skull no longer indicates hope or the possibility of new life, but becomes merely the expression of a ghastly and cartoonish aesthetic where death becomes us.
Is it true? Are we unable to imagine another world in light of what we are witnessing today? And must we go it alone, or might we traverse this abyss together? As a subterranean refuge for constructive theology, the catacombs present a horizontal ascent. Not a way out, but a way in. The functional binary between the catacombs and the cathedrals places two paths before us: one, of death-in-life; the other, of life-in-death.
Co-authored by Preston Price and Matt Baker